General Properties of Plastics

Thermoplastics may be softened by heating and hardened by cooling any number of times. Thermosetting materials are either originally soft or liquid, or they soften  once upon heating; but upon further heating, they harden permanently. Some thermosetting materials harden by an interlinking mechanism in which water or other by-product is given off, by a process called condensation; but others, like the unsaturated polyesters, harden by a direct interlinking of the basic molecules without release of a by-product.

Most plastics are modified with plasticizers, fillers, or other ingredients.
Consequently, each base material forms the nucleus for a large number of products having a wide variety of properties.
This section can only indicate generally the range of properties to be expected.
Because plastics are quite different in their composition and structure from other materials, such as metals, their behavior under stress and under other conditions is likely to be different from other materials. Just as steel and lead are markedly different and are used for different applications, so the various plastics materials some hard and brittle, others soft and extensible must be designed  on different bases and used in different ways. Some plastics show no yield point, because they fail before a yield point can be reached. Others have a moderately high elastic range, followed by a highly plastic range. Still others are highly extensible and are employed at stresses far beyond the yield point.

More than many other materials, plastics are sensitive to temperature and to the rate and time of application of load. How these parameters influence the properties is indicated in a general way in Fig. 4.5, which shows that for many plastics in increase in temperature, increase in plasticizer content, and decrease in rate of load application mean an increase in strain to fracture, accompanied by a decrease in maximum stress. This viscoelastic behavior, combining elastic and viscous or plastic reaction to stress, is unlike the behavior of materials which are traditionally considered to behave only elastically.

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